News from DFO

January 17, 2022: 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has taken the step to protect new glass sponge reef sites that were identified in Howe Sound and confirmed in a Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat report released in 2020 (available here). The DFO decision follows engagement with Indigenous groups, commercial and recreational harvesters, as well as other interest groups including the MLSS.

As a precautionary measure, DFO has established commercial and recreational fishery closures for five glass sponge reef sites with adherance to a protection boundary of 150 metres from the edges of the reefs.

The following closures are effective January 17, 2022:

– commercial and recreational bottom-contact fishing activities for prawn and crab by trap

– shrimp and groundfish by trawl, and groundfish by hook and line are prohibited within these new areas in portions of Sub Areas 28-1, 28-2 and 28-3 to protect the five Howe Sound glass sponge reefs. Details, including geographic coordinates, are provided in the Fisheries Notice (available here).

– use of downrigger gear in recreational salmon trolling will be prohibited in these five new areas as we;; as one existing site (Queen Charlotte Channel) via a Condition of Licence to be effective in spring 2022.

– consultations continue with Indigenous groups to mitigate risks posed to glass sponge reefs from bottom-contact food, social, and ceremonial (FSC) fishing activities. Further conservation measures may be made at a later date.

A description of the closures, including maps, is provided on the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound Glass Sponge Reef Conservation Initiative website (available here).

MLSS is particularly excited by this announcement and would like to thank DFO for its conservation proaction. MLSS is a pioneering society that has provided DFO with significant data for the largest known and most pristine glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound that supported the DFO with the 2nd initiative to establish the eight Marine Refuge closures in 2019. Once again, MLSS submitted data to DFO science personnel regarding several of these new 2022 protected areas; hence our great interest in seeking and achieving the protection designation. Glass sponge reefs are so rare, worldwide, that the need for protection is critical.

MLSS continues to engage the DFO regarding the extreme shortage of Fishery Enforcement Officers within Howe Sound, especially with these new closure areas. Protection on paper, however, is not protection unless it actually occurs ‘on site, in the field’. To this end, the MLSS urges the DFO to have a full time, dedicated monitoring and enforcement officer in Howe Sound. 

Sponge Reef Closures in Howe Sound

August 11, 2021: 

June 17, 2021

February 10, 2020: 

January 27, 2020:

March 6, 2019: 

January 17, 2019: 

November 29, 2018:

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